John Keating

John Keating

    Dead Poets Society
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Living… on the East Coast in the 1950s.

Profession... English teacher at the Welmont Academy, an all-boys school he attended as a young man. It's one of the best prep schools in the U.S. and over 75% of its graduates go on to Ivy League colleges. However, John doesn't care about preparing them for college; he wants to prepare them for life.

Interests... reading the great poets including Shelley, Thoreau and Whitman. He's been leading his students in the revival of the Dead Poets Society, which was around when John went to school at Welmont. A small group of the boys meet in a cave and take turns reading poetry. Every meeting starts the same way, by invoking a phrase from Henry David Thoreau: "I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

Challenge... helping his students embrace the idea of carpe diem. John encourages his students to challenge themselves and be open-minded, but some of their parents don't approve of his unconventional teaching methods. For example, he helped his student Neil discover his love of acting, but his father insists he is going to attend Harvard and become a doctor. Neil’s father plans to withdraw him from Welton and enroll him in military school.

Personality... rebellious, caring, and inspiring. John is not afraid to go against the traditions of this strict educational system in order to do what he believes in. He teaches his students to look at the world in a different way and inspires them to achieve greatness on their own terms.  


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